President Joe Biden told Jewish leaders that he visited the Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 people were killed by an anti-Semitic shooter on Oct. 27, 2018. However, Tree of Life Synagogue officials say that Biden never visited the Pittsburgh place of worship.
Ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Biden held a 16-minute virtual address with leaders of the Jewish community. During Thursday's meeting, Biden claimed that he visited the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Biden talked about hate, which he said "hides under the rocks," but "given any oxygen at all, it comes out."
"And it's been given too much oxygen in the last four, five, seven, ten years, and it has seen itself, whether it was — I remember spending time at the — you know, going to the — you know, the Tree of Life Synagogue, speaking with the — just — it just is amazing these things are happening — happening in America," Biden said.
However, officials say that Biden has never visited the Tree of Life Synagogue. Barb Feige, executive director of the Tree of Life, said that Biden did not spend time at the synagogue.
"In a phone interview, Feige, executive director since July 2019, said firmly that 'no' Biden didn't visit, even before taking office when he had a lower public profile as a former vice president and then-Democratic presidential candidate," the New York Post reported.
CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale said Biden's comments are a "big problem" because "there's just no evidence" of President Biden visiting the Tree of Life Synagogue.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Post and CNN.
Three days after the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood, then-President Donald Trump visited the synagogue with then-first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue received hate mail for welcoming Trump to the place of worship.
In 2019, another claim by Biden was questioned by the brother of a Sandy Hook victim. In the presidential campaign ad, Biden said, "I think I met with every one of the parents and/or of the families of those who are lost."
JT Lewis, the older brother of Jesse Lewis, who was a first-grade student killed at the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, alleged that Biden never met with his family.
"This is a lie," Lewis wrote on Twitter in October 2019. "Obama came to Sandy Hook and met with every family. Joe Biden DID NOT. In fact, my family was not allowed on Air Force One because we refused to support Obama/Biden gun control efforts."
"Joe Biden wasn't there, and what he talks about in his videos is firsthand experience with families and first responders, and I wanted to clarify that it was actually President Obama who came there in the days after the shooting and met with us and helped us through that really tragic time," said Lewis, who later accepted a position with Trump's 2020 campaign.